Spicing up Christianity
Former Sporty Spice highlights revival, writes
IF Mary Magdalene, arguably the originator of girl power, found her way into Mel C’s pop group she would be given the name Feisty Spice.
Sporty Melanie Chisholm plays the gutsy, ultimately grief-stricken, Biblical character in the musical spectacular Jesus Christ Superstar.
‘‘She’s pretty feisty and I think she’s probably got certain characteristics of all the Spice Girls,’’ Chisholm says.
‘‘She has quite a transformation throughout Jesus Christ Superstar, so like all women I’d say she has many different sides.’’
Chisholm’s Mary wears a leather jacket and dreadlocks in keeping with the 21st century theme of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s reboot, which reaches Australian arenas in May following a successful UK tour.
Also starring Tim Minchin as Judas and British reality show winner Ben Forster as Jesus, the show is set in modern times to a live soundtrack of gospel, rock and pop. The disciples appear as Occupy movement protesters who air their grievances on Twitter, while the villainous Romans are corporate thieves who dress in suits.
Mary tries to heal a growing chasm in ideology between two highly strung protagonists.
‘‘There is so much aggression and confrontation between Jesus and Judas,’’ Chisholm says.
‘‘And what’s lovely with this show and the songs that Mary sings is that she’s very much the calming influence.’’
No stranger to musical theatre, having recently enjoyed a West End stint in Blood Brothers and a solo album of musical standards, Chisholm was part of Jesus Christ Superstar from the beginning. A judge on the British talent series Superstar, she helped cast Forster in the lead role and was invited by Lord Lloyd Webber to join the cast.
A performance art graduate from Liverpool, an appreciation of musical theatre was in Chisholm’s blood long before she joined the Spice Girls.
‘‘I’ve come full circle really and it’s lovely to be accepted into the theatre world, especially coming from a pop background,’’ she says.
The last Australia Jesus Christ Superstar tour in 1992 was attended by a record 987,000 people over 82 nights and grossed more than $40 million.
Australian talent on the updated version will include Deal Or No Deal presenter Andrew O’Keefe, who appears briefly as a gameshow host comedy hybrid of King Herod.
Rocker Jon Stevens is set to step up as the villain Pontius Pilate, more than 20 years after he starred alongside John Farnham in the role of Judas.
‘‘The first time I got to sell Jesus out and now I get to kill him,’’ Stevens says. ‘‘That’s what happens over 20 years.’’
Jesus Christ Superstar tours from May 31 to June 15. Go to ticketek.com.au to book.
Andrew O’Keefe, Jon Stevens, Melanie Chisholm and Ben Forster